Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Everything Is A Secret"

TOKYO -- Behind Japan's escalating nuclear crisis sits a scandal-ridden energy industry in a comfy relationship with government regulators often willing to overlook safety lapses.
Leaks of radioactive steam and workers contaminated with radiation are just part of the disturbing catalog of accidents that have occurred over the years and been belatedly reported to the public, if at all.
In one case, workers hand-mixed uranium in stainless steel buckets, instead of processing by machine, so the fuel could be reused, exposing hundreds of workers to radiation. Two later died.

Why does this pattern of deception sound so familiar?  Oh wait...Three Mile Island...Gulf Oil Spill...the list is endless, so I won't bother.

Instead I'm going to recount an amusing local drama.  Last night I went to the Tewksbury Township Land Use Board meeting, where it was standing room only with so many neighbors crushed into the old Mountainville school house, the antique windows were cracked for relief from the sweltering air.  Everyone had their knickers in a bunch because the Johnson clan - of baby oil, bandaid, and various lascivious scandals fame - wants a helipad permit for their 2500+ acre property that sprawls through a good portion of the village of Oldwick, dwarfing Wit's End.  Yes, in the midst of arguably the worst compound disaster to occur within recent memory, I went to protest their application because...why not!  This was just the opening salvo of what will be an ongoing saga with many more hearings before it is resolved, replete with various expensive expert witnesses with heaps of charts and of course, the prattling lawyers.

I asked three questions of the first witness, just for fun.

1.  You stated in your testimony that with all the installations of helipads in Bedminster township, there had been no complaints about the lights.  Were there any complaints about the noise?

This was great.  The room was silent for a full minute while he stared at me, with a deer in the headlights look.  He was rummaging around his brain and finally decided that the answer would depend on what the definition of is, is.  No, no, I mean, the definition of complaint.

"Not that I'm aware of," he finally said.   (This was a lie.)

2.  As far as the environmental impacts study, was there or will there be a comparative study between helicopters and automobiles, to determine the relative amount of volatile organic compounds and CO2 emissions, per mile traveled?

Well, that just about gave him an apoplectic fit, since the Johnson property is within a minutes' drive from several private airports, and less than an hour from Newark International.

Needless to say, no such comparison has been or will be done.

3.  You have said that the purpose of the helipad will be for cattle buyers visiting the farm, and family members' personal use.  Is there any provision that would restrict the ability of the family to allow their friends to also use the helipad with their own helicopters?

Ha, this really pissed him off, because once they get a permit for the helipad, they can let anybody use it. They can have parties with dozens of their rich friends helicoptering in one after the other if they want, while everybody in the surrounding vicinity has to listen to the racket and breathe the fumes.

I know it is all completely trivial especially in light of monumental catastrophes elsewhere.  But it was interesting in the context that even the upper middle class (and anybody who can afford a home in Tewksbury has to have at least once been in the upper middle class) is finally getting riled up enough to understand the extreme divergence of their dwindling status from that of the uber-wealthy.  The dispute is a microcosm of the drastic stratification of our society which will ultimately spell the downfall of even the wealthiest - they just don't know it yet.


  1. It's really a two class economic system. Shhhh, don't let anybody else know! The Kookies won't like it.

  2. That pooch is absolutely adorable.

  3. Ha! I know, SO cute. I had to try over and over to get that screen grab because it was part of a moving slide show!

  4. Good one Gail. Wish we could question the fossil fuel industries about their impact.

    BTW - we know that the Jet exhaust is really bad. Lots of airport proximity studies report disease.

    Keep fighting.

  5. I believe when the High Priests of Science loosed the Nuclear Genie from the bottle, they did this, and now we are approaching our destination......the Heart of the Son.

    I love Old Floyd.

  6. "Merchants of Doubt" traces the high priests of science who went straight from the nuclear genie to denying the link between cancer and smoking and stoking up the cold war. When the Soviet Union collapsed and they lost that bogie man, they turned to climate change denial, acid rain denial, ozone hole denial, etc.

    Less well known is the systematic tropospheric ozone denial.


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